Nicotine holds promise for treating diseases such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, and schizophrenia. "Nicotine is a very simple molecule, and it affects receptors of many subtypes; therefore, the consequences, behavioral and biologic, are very broad," says Neil Grunberg, director of the Psychoendocrinology and Biochemistry Laboratory at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Nicotinic receptors control the release of numerous neurotransmitters, including dopamine, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine, "which are important in the acute minute-to-minute running of the brain, your emotions, cognitive aspects of memory," says G. Kenneth Lloyd, a scientific consultant in Poway, Calif. Nicotinic receptors are also involved in controlling nerve growth factors, important for the health of neurons. "The nicotinic receptors seem to be pretty important and pervasive," he comments. There are six different types of nicotinic receptors in humans, says Michael Williams, vice president of neurological and urological...

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